A man who whose “model” son died after being thrown off the roof of a van “like rubbish” is backing our ‘Drive for Justice’ campaign for stiffer sentences after the drunk driver was jailed for only three and a half years.
Peter Dolan’s son Enda had just started his first year of an architectural degree at Queen’s University and was walking home from a night out with friends on 15 October 2014.
As he walked along the footpath on the Malone Road in Belfast towards his halls of residence, a van mounted the kerb and hit him from behind, killing him instantly.
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“They carried him on the roof for half a mile and then stopped the van and left him on the side of road like a bag of rubbish. They jumped back into the van and drove on.”
“It was the very early hours of the morning is when we got the knock on the door from the police delivering us the very tragic news that our son had been killed in a road traffic accident. And that was the beginning of the change in our life,” Mr Dolan said.
It was the beginning of a bitter road for the family, from Killyclogher in Co Tyrone.
‘A KIND GENTLE FELLA’
“Enda was a kind, gentle fella, he was full of life. He was very hard working and he was dedicated to everything that he did.
“He had a good sense of humour and he was liked and loved by people of all ages.”
The father and son had dreamed of working together in the same architecture firm.
Enda was a straight A-student in GCSEs and A-Levels.
“He was deputy head boy at Omagh CBS and a role model for younger boys. And he was a gifted athlete, having won an Ulster U18 winners medal for cross country running.”
For many years he had unwound after school by strumming guitar and was involved in a number of bands.
“He was a model child.”
He left behind four devastated siblings; Dervla 18, Ben 14, Andrew 10 and Adam 7.
“Whenever something like happens it changes your life forever,” Mr Dolan said.
“A very close member of your family is no longer with you. You have to deal with that void, with that empty seat at the table and him not being in the house or in contact.
“We still miss him terribly, we miss him about the house and being there and asking his advice as a young adult. He had his own opinion on things like another friend. It is hard to take for his friends but also it is difficult on Enda’s siblings.
“And for them to understand that their big brother is not coming home is difficult for them to comprehend and there were tears and there still are tears most days. It is just heartbreaking.
“It is two years last week since he was killed and there are still tears, it is still very very raw. His room is still the same and nothing has been touched in it and we go into his room.”
David Lee Stewart, 31, from Gray’s Park Belfast took 13 drinks and traces of drugs, including cocaine, were also found in his system.
He pleaded guilty to a total of five charges. including causing death by dangerous driving, as well as four other motoring offences, including dangerous driving and failing to provide a specimen of blood.
“They went through numerous red lights and were witnessed doing excessive speeds,” Mr Dolan said.
“Stewart had three previous convictions which in our opinion at the time seemed to be dismissed as irrelevant - two of those convictions were driving related and a third was drugs related and in my opinion should have been taken into account. The passenger got 50 hours community service which is “a disgrace for someone who was in the middle of aiding and abetting this murder”
Stewart was also given a five year driving ban commenced the day of sentencing “so really in theory he is not allowed to drive when he is in prison”.
The driver never spoke in court nor contacted the family.
The sentencing happened in April which provoked what Mr Dolan called “a public outcry”.
There were numerous complaints about it being an unduly lenient sentence, which the PPS supported, he said.
The appeal was heard in September and the outcome is due soon.
The initial sentence of 3.5 years in custody “was just another traumatic experience...it was a disgrace”.
“It was a hit and run. He killed him, knocked him over, left him on the side of the road, he didn’t check to see if he was alive, didn’t phone the ambulance or the emergency services. He got into his vehicle, with his mate and away they went.”
Mr Dolan wonders what someone has to do to get the full 14 years sentence allowed.
“This is whole point of my quest for justice.”
They have met the PPS director Barra McGrory, Attorney General John Larkin, Minister for Justice Claire Sugden and with all the political parties.
“We want the maximum sentence increased from 14 up to 20 years - and also a minimum sentence.”
The Justice Minister agreed she would consider the points in a forthcoming sentencing review.
Mr Dolan also believes concurrent sentencing is an issue as Mr Lee was banned from driving for five years.
“In theory that means the courts have forbidden him from driving at any time during his three year sentence.”
“The entire court process appears to favour the defendant, there is no stone left unturned in the attempt to minimise the sentence.”
These include characters witnesses and references “on how good a guy he is and how remorseful he is”.
“Surely if there was any sign of remorse surely we should have got acknowledgement of that - which we didn’t - we should have got a letter from the defendant, which we didn’t.”
He believes that too often defendant “put their heads down” in court because their solicitors advise them to pretend to be remorseful in order to get years off their sentence.
Mr Dolan notes that success in his campaign is not going to bring his son back.
“But what might happen is that some unsuspecting family somewhere along the line will get maybe a good result out of this.”
“It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ this happens again.”
READ MORE: ‘My wife was flung into air by death driver’
READ MORE: ’I want justice for my son Enda’
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